Mike in Mongolia

I’ve got a friend, to protect his identity we’ll just call him “Mike“, who’s currently touring China and Mongolia for a month. Well it looks like even he couldn’t resist the call of the Internet, so I got this last night and it’s posted with his permission:

Hi from a dodgey internet cafe in Ulaanbaatar.

A land of slow internet connections and suspicious meat dishes. The landscape is rather amazing, – loads of open grasslands and blue sky, somewhat reminiscent of the the windows default backdrop. Only add more horses, goats, yaks, eagles and gers.

Managed to get caught in a terrific storm yesterday, minutes after pitching a tent on a sand dune ridge. Apart from the tent nearly blowing away, the best part was being pinned on the ridge and then it starting to strike lightning.Nothing like sitting under a shell of aluminum poles with bolts flying overhead. My other career after scientist when I was a kid was going to be a orchestra conductor and it look like for an ironic moment that I might fullfil at least half of that. Luckily after an hour or so the storm passed to reveal one of the best sunsets ever.

More dodgey roads to condend with later this week where I hope to get to some other park and try my luck again with the tent.

Anyhow, painfully slow connections. Take care back there,

I’m starting to like the taste of mutton which seems to taint every meal that you order. See if the can make a special dish at the curry place.

Alec Muffett Update : Thursday 20th July

This in from Dave Walker:

I have had a couple of brief chats with Alec today. He sounds very much his usual self, and is reasonably upbeat.

He had a CAT scan yesterday, which is “pretty much the final piece of work they want to do” on his chest. The idea was that, if any remaining blood clots were found, they would need to be removed surgically to prevent them turning into some particularly nasty kind of tissue later on. Alec was very pleased to report that no clots were found, so the doctors will not have to open him up again :-).

He has also had his leg put in a brace, which is the first step (after last Thursday’s pinning) to getting it working again. He can move it 43 degrees, which is apparently pretty good, although he says it’s very hard work as the muscles are still swollen to about double their normal size from the accident trauma.

I’ll be heading up to Birmingham to see him tomorrow afternoon. I will be taking a bunch of cards (one from Australia and one from Sweden, as well as a bunch from the UK – thanks, folks, and I know there are more coming), a laptop, and a big stack of hardcopied emails wishing him a speedy recovery.

Linux File System Development

Been trying to catch up on some of my LWN reading (I’m weeks behind at the moment) but have stumbled upon one of those gems of information that LWN has so often – a report on the 2006 Linux File Systems Workshop.

The first page gives a useful introduction into how disk technologies are advancing and the problems that massively increasing capacity versus slowly increasing seek times create for filesystem developers. For instance:

In summary, over the next 7 years, disk capacity will increase by 16 times, while disk bandwidth will increase only 5 times, and seek time will barely budge! Today it takes a theoretical minimum 4,000 seconds, or about 1 hour to read an entire disk sequentially (in reality, it’s longer due to a variety of factors). In 2013, it will take a minimum of 12,800 seconds, or about 3.5 hours, to read an entire disk – an increase of 3 times. Random I/O workloads are even worse, since seek times are nearly flat. A workload that reads, e.g., 10% of the disk non-sequentially will take much longer on our 8TB 2013-era disk than it did on our 500GB 2006-era disk.

The second page reports on the first day of the workshop which covered hardware, errors and recovery and current filesystem design. If you are interested in filesystems or are just curious about how they work and how they can break then please go read it, it’s an outstanding article! Also read the comments, there’s some interesting stuff there too.

The last page then gets into new ideas for filesystem techniques that are designed around fixing the problems that were identified in the first day. This is nicely summarised by the comment:

These goals can be summarized as “repair-driven file system design” – designing our file system to be quickly and easily repaired from the beginning, rather than bolting it on afterward.

Very encouraging. It goes on to describe a number of different filesystem concepts that could be incorporated into new filesystems, including one (chunkfs) that could be pretty much a new filesystem in its own right.

Alec Muffett Update : Wednesday 19th July – 2 Updates

Update 1

This is direct from Alec’s sister:

Well, it’s me – M… – back in England!

I’ll let Alec vent his recovering spleen on the insurance company that messed him around so much. Even up until lunch time yesterday, Monday, it wasn’t sure when we’d be coming home. Let’s just say we had an almighty ding dong and all of the staff at Intergroup Assurance will wince for years to come if the names Boswell or Muffett are mentioned!

The final plan was that we were due to be collected by a road ambulance from the UK at 5.30 pm French time. They arrived just before 7.30! By the time there’d been the hand over and the British doctor in the evacuation team had confirmed that he didn’t need Alec to have a drip it was about 8pm when we left (7pm in the UK). The team on the ambulance was excellent and being able to communicate in English was such a relief. We did the chunnel (not an something I’d ever entertained experiencing and not something I’d jump at the opportunity to do again) and then up to Maidstone, around the M25, M40, M42 and then in to Birmingham. NEVER have I been so pleased to see Birmingham!

He quite enjoyed the trip home. He was on a special stretcher with the most incredible springing system. All was well unless we hit a big bump that caused him to “bottom out” on the stretcher. That caused the odd sharp intake of breath. Most of the journey I spent with my arm outstretched and my hand outstretched on Alec’s abdomen suppressing the ongoing bounces so that he was stable again before we hit the next one.

He survived the journey home with three oral paracetamol. For Alec the pain of the drip (the French method of administering pain killers) almost exceeded the pain it was meant to be treating!

Anyhow, will go in with Dad later today and see how he’s getting on. We couldn’t find Internet access in the room (but it was 2.30 am) but he was pleased to see a TV and as I crawled away at nearly 3 he was having lessons on what channels he’d got!

I certainly think Alec will have a new appreciation for the simple things in life – like a cup of tea, speaking in your mother tongue, and being able to use a “real” loo! (not necessarily in that order).

Anyhow, must go off and have a REAL bath and attend to everything that’s been on hold for the last 11 days. But, before I go, I must say THANK YOU to all of Alec’s friends. The emails, texts, and messages have done wonders to boost his morale and have aided his recovery in immeasurable ways. The visits of Gilles, Joep, Peter, Krystal and multiple visits of Bart were great; not only for Alec but for me too! I feel like I’ve known them all for years. It was also comforting to know that Rachel was sorting things out on the “home front”. Alec is so very lucky to have such a great circle of friends (and such a circle of great friends).

Thanks again. I’ll update you all later.

Update 2

This is from Rachel:

Alec phoned me earlier – very very cheerful. Although no internet facilities he has a TV and that will keep him amused until his ibook arrives on Thursday with some DVD’s! So Thursday is now booked – Dave Walker will do that. When I get contact details for him, I suspect you can book visits direct, but he is still tired at present!

Medically they are getting to grips with some baseline levels from which to start his rehab.

They have left the chest drain in for a little while longer, but with a monitering bag. If it has less than 100ml per day, they will take it out immediately.

They are going to Xray his back just to check for any spinal injuries (presumably before they start letting him sit up by the sounds of things) and also do a CAT scan.

He is obviously so much happier where he is, with a room to himself, a picture on the wall, a view of trees and bird-life, and people who speak in English that the euphoria will keep him going for several days I should think, and be even better once the tiredness has worn off.

Alec Muffett Update : Tuesday 18th July – 2 Updates and a Podcast

Update 1

From Rachel:

6.40pm Monday 17th July – Alec has just spoken to me – he STILL HASN’T LEFT the ambulance being over 2 hours late! He is getting very very cross.

Before a Doctor came in, he did ask me to put all visitors off until Thursday at the earliest as when it happens it is going to be a difficult tiring journey, and he would like at least through Wednesday to recuperate. So please (much as he wants to see folk) hold the enthusiasm.

At present at Alec’s request can you please hold arrangements to travel up to see him, until he gives me the OK for visitors.

I will be in touch again, as soon as I get more news

Update 2

From Rachel:


Alec is actually in an ambulence, on a road in France!


Thanks to Geoff Arnold you can now listen to Alec’s latest podcast (his last from Lille).